'Together in the National Interest': The Rhetoric of Unity and the Formation of the Cameron-Clegg Government

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Abstract

Following the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government in May 2010, David Cameron and Nick Clegg sought to persuade party members, the electorate and a sceptical media that their partnership would hold together for the duration of the parliament. Taking as its starting point Kenneth Burke’s theory of rhetoric as identification, this article explores the strategies employed by senior Coalition figures to construct and present an image of unity to these different audiences. Of particular concern are appeals to the parties’ shared values and to the ‘national interest’, as well as the narrative of Britain’s ‘debt crisis’. This narrative served to minimise inter-party divisions by inviting MPs and supporters to unite behind the cause of deficit reduction, in opposition to the ‘fiscally irresponsible’ Labour Party that had allegedly wrecked the economy. The article concludes by reflecting on the lessons for the partners in a future UK coalition government.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Volume86
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Political Quarterly following peer review. The version of record Atkins, J. (2015), ‘Together in the National Interest’: The Rhetoric of Unity and the Formation of the Cameron–Clegg Government. The Political Quarterly, 86: 85-92. is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12140

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